For the big raisin, is the rapid bus the better transit choice? – 2

There is no one-size-fits-all transit solution for all communities. There are just too many variables. The primary objective or so it would seem is the transport of people from one location to another and do this, if possible, in the least restrictive way. Beyond this, everything else is subordinate.

That said, I reported in an earlier post, for the big raisin (Fresno), bus rapid transit’s (BRT) time has come. Construction is expected to begin on the city’s 15.7-mile so-called “starter” system in the next few weeks.

If I understand things correctly, the goal of the Fresno BRT, incidentally, branded the “Q,” is to transport patrons along two corridors – the Blackstone/Abby and Ventura/Kings Canyon – more quickly, with less waiting time between buses (reduced headways), whereby rider fares will be collected off bus (from a vending machine, presumably located at stops); and, in the minds of the “Q’s” organizers and administrators (if not the same), provide a superior, quality service. All at a purported $30 million cost.

Now ask yourself this: Can the existing service on these two corridors be provided at a higher level than what it is currently without all the so-called “extra fare”? Could it be that with this new enhanced bus service implemented, there is this expectation that more people will opt for the bus instead of their doing their own driving? Then again, maybe the purpose of the service upgrade isn’t so much a means to attract more or new riders as it is to provide existing ones a better mobility device – a new ride with improved transit times, in other words. Long and short, it is doubtful buses will travel any faster than what is already provided; there’ll just be fewer stops.

Or, could the aim be to prompt what is commonly referred to these days as transit-oriented development or TOD, the presence of the bus driving development (retail, residential, entertainment) potential near stations (“stops” in this case)? Or could there even be an altogether different reason behind this: that being the idea is to attract greater numbers of riders to public transit to aid in improvement in the quality of local air? I may be going out on a limb by suggesting this, perhaps it’s a case of all of the above?

For what it’s worth, over a number of years, many, many proposals and studies have been put on the table and conducted, respectively, to determine what mode is the best transit fit; everything from monorail to streetcar and lightrail transit and personal-rapid- and people-mover transit.

Meanwhile, Stockton, a city just up the road about 100 miles to Fresno’s north has, apparently, a very successful BRT (dubbed “Metro Express”). It would be helpful to learn what’s behind that success. And, there are likewise more successes like Cleveland’s “HealthLine” and others. But, Fresno’s and Stockton’s might not be an apples-to-apples comparison as Stockton has the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) commuter trains which shuttles riders to and from the San Francisco Bay Area towns of San Jose, Newark, Centerville, Pleasanton, etc. and some of the Stockton-based BRT patronage may be feeder traffic for ACE.

For Fresno, on the other hand, BRT was for all intents and purposes effectively a gimme, most of the funding for it having come courtesy of federal and state sources, apparently. One has to wonder, if city powers that be are really for and truly believe in this service, why, then, the bulk of the tab being picked up by outside sources?

In the third and final Fresno rapid bus installment, I will take a look at the prospects of what a historic trolley line could offer the city. That’s next time.

– Alan Kandel